State Fire Marshal investigates East 26th Street fire

Published 4:06 pm Saturday, February 22, 2020

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

RESERVE — The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office is heading the origin and cause investigation of an apartment fire that burned early Wednesday morning at 366 E. 26th St. in Reserve.

Cain Dufrene, chief of operations for the St. John Office of Fire Services, said there were no occupants in the four-unit apartment at the time of the fire or during the response.

“Our initial investigation led us to notify the State Fire Marshal to come out and do a cause and origin investigation. They are going to take the lead on it,” Dufrene said.

As of press time Friday, the State Fire Marshal’s Office had not determined the cause of the fire. However, public affairs director Ashley Rodrigue confirmed the origin of the fire was in a downstairs unit.

“We’ve been made aware that both downstairs units had utilities to them,” Rodrigue said. “However, the cause remains undetermined at this time because the fire was so intense that the ceiling and the upstairs units kind of fell in. It’s been a little difficult to get down there and figure out a cause.”

State law dictates the fire chief has the authority to determine origin and cause. Rodrigue said the State Fire Marshal is typically called if local officials cannot identify the cause and origin, if they feel there is a suspicious element to the fire or when there is more than a five percent burn or fatality resulting from the fire.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office was called to investigate at the scene. However, as of Thursday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office told L’OBSERVATEUR there was no open investigation into the East 26th Street fire.

Rodrigue said unoccupied units are not necessarily a suspicious element.

“We don’t at the moment have any suspicious circumstances relative to the beginning of the fire, but it’s undetermined at this time,” Rodrigue said.

The St. John Office of Fire Services dispatched personnel at 4:54 a.m. Wednesday after receiving a call of an apartment on fire. The first truck arrived on scene at 5:02 a.m. and found heavy smoke and fire emanating from the backside of the residence.

While surveying the scene, personnel made a call for additional resources. A total of six trucks and 16 responders quickly contained and extinguished the fire.

“The fire was contained to one side of the apartment, and it didn’t really spread beyond that,” Dufrene said. “It took about 30 minutes to get the fire under control. We remained on scene for a while after that waiting for the fire marshal, so we didn’t clear it until after 7:30.”

The flames left significant damage on the first and second floors of one side of the apartment, while the other half sustained smoke and water damage.

Firefighters made contact with a gentleman who said he owned but did not occupy the apartment. The tenants were not identified.